The LAW of God
James Smith, 1855
The law of God is that code of moral precepts which was given to men to be obeyed — in token of God's authority and man's subordination. It was the rule of justification to father Adam: obeying it — he was promised life; disobeying it — he was threatened with death.
The law of God contains, then, precepts, promises,
precepts to be obeyed,
promises to be enjoyed if obedient, and
threatenings to be endured if disobedient.
The law of God requires holiness of nature, righteousness of life — and these uninterruptedly the same.
The law of God . . .
flows from the will of God,
expresses the purity of the Divine nature, and
was necessary to maintain the Creator's right and social order.
The effect of perfect conformity to the law — would be .
delight in God, and
Harmony, peace, and purity, would have reigned universally!
Pain, disease, or disappointment, would not have been known!
Paradise would have been our place,
love our ruling passion,
peace our happy portion,
God our righteous friend,
joy our constant companion,
pleasure the result of all our employments,
and all creation would be in a state of subordination to us!
This law was originally written on Adam's heart, reflecting its excellency in his life, and regulating both his conscience and his actions.
The understanding knew it,
the judgment approved of it,
the will chose it,
the affections loved it,
the memory retained it, and
the thoughts were regulated by it.
The law now stands in God's book, and broken fragments of it only are found in our nature. Sin blotted, blurred, and obscured it; man hates it, cannot perform it — and yet cleaves to it in seeking for life!
The law is holy, just, and good; it requires nothing but
what is strictly just, truly good, and calculated to benefit us. It is . . .
holy in its nature,
good in its promises, and
just in its threatenings.
The law cannot connive at sin, or bestow good upon
sinners — but justly condemns all offenders. All that it can now do, is . .
to arraign us at God's bar,
try us for our offences, and
deliver us over to wrath.
The law shows us what SIN is — God's hatred to it, and the wrath of God against it. It knows nothing of grace, mercy, or forbearance; its language to the sinner is, "Pay me that you owe me!" And, in case of failure, "Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil!"
The GOSPEL differs from the LAW in several ways:
The law treats men as creatures who were once holy, and are always bound to be so;
the gospel treats men as sinners, and reveals mercy to them as such.
The law demands — the gospel gives;
the law threatens — the gospel promises;
the law condemns — the gospel justifies;
the law curses — the gospel blesses;
the law reveals man's sin — the gospel exhibits Christ's righteousness;
the law declares God's preceptive will — the gospel God's gracious purpose;
the law speaks of duty — the gospel tells of love;
the law ministers death — the gospel brings life;
the law shows authority — the gospel discloses grace;
the law works wrath — the gospel begets love;
the law drives — the gospel draws;
the law sends the sinner to Hell — the gospel conducts him to Heaven;
the law calls to doing — the gospel calls to believing;
the law is all for receiving — the gospel is for giving.
Thus law and gospel differ — and yet . . .
they have but one author, Jehovah;
they are delivered to one and the same people;
they have one object in view, even God's glory;
they have one end to accomplish — to humble the sinner and glorify Jehovah;
and they are both found in one book, the Bible.
The law is compared:
to a fire — because it enlightens and consumes;
to a light — because it directs and undeceives;
to a balance — because it tries and weighs;
to a husband — because it commands and threatens;
to a schoolmaster — because it instructs and corrects;
and to the avenger of blood — because it pursues the sinner until he takes refuge in Jesus, who is the end of the law.
The law is called . . .
the law of God,
the law of sin and death,
the ministration of death,
and the yoke of bondage.
The apostle assures us, that the law is good, holy, spiritual, and just. Our Lord informs us, that he came not to destroy — but to fulfill it; and the gospel is said to establish it. It is still good if a man uses it lawfully, and the true Christian delights in it after the inward man. Yes, we often look forward and long for the time, when we shall be all conformed to it, and evermore love the Lord our God with all our hearts, minds, souls, and strength, and our neighbor as ourselves. We now lament that this is not the case. We must love the precept, and desire to act according to so holy, so just, so good a rule. It is a principal part of our grief that we do not, and our complaint is, "I find another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin, which is in my members. When I would do good — evil is present with me, so that I cannot do the things that I would! O wretched man that I am!" Gracious God! give me a greater love to your holy law, conform my life to its precepts, and finally conform my whole person to its requirements, through Jesus Christ, my Lord. Amen.
Cursed be the man, forever cursed,
That does one willful sin commit:
Death and damnation for the first,
Without relief, and infinite!
Thus Sinai roars, and round the earth,
Thunder and fire, and vengeance flings;
But, Jesus, your dear gasping breath,
And Calvary, say gentler things!
Pardon, and grace, and boundless love,
Streaming along a Savior's blood:
And life, and joys, and crowns above,
Obtained by a dear bleeding God!
Hark how he prays! (the charming sound
Dwells on his dying lips), "Forgive!"
And every groan and gasping wound
Cries, "Father, let the rebels live!"